17 Sep

Weathering the Storm

This past week as a Floridian has been trying. Hurricane Irma came through bringing with her driving rain, raging winds, tornadoes, destruction and the like. There was literally not a single place in Florida that wasn’t touched in some way. We spent days glued to the television, watching our local weather men tell us what to do. Looking to them for the answers, what to do, where to go, what to buy… they could have told us we needed to purchase 15 cases of school glue to fix our homes and I believe there would have been a shortage on the school supply aisle!

The storms of this life are inevitable. No one escapes without at least a few gray clouds and a bit of rain. The types of storms you weather sometimes depend on where you live… are you living in a place that leaves you vulnerable to major storms? I’m not just referring to Floridians and Texans here…

Weathering storms of the emotional sort is grueling. Most of our storms are just loud and rainy, but they are short lived… it’s not long before the sunshine returns. These we tend navigate well, they don’t change much, if anything in our lives. When they’re over, they’re just a memory. A little thunder, a bit of rain…

The emotional hurricanes are slow moving, bringing with them days and even weeks of anticipation. You know the general path these storms will take, but you are never quite sure of the amount of destruction, the impact they will leave on your life. These hurricanes wrap us up, we watch them closely, trying to guess where exactly they will end up. We plan and we prepare as much as possible. Any slight wobble in any direction either fills us with hope or dread. When you’re in the middle of a storm it’s hard not to focus on it’s path. We listen to meteorologists who tell us how to be ready. But there is no real way to be ready. Some people evacuate.  They check out, but at some point, they will still have to face the damage. They’ll still have to clean up the debris. Evacuating protects us for the moment, but it doesn’t stop the storm. Some even evacuate permanently. They leave, unwilling or unable to weather another storm, leaving their loved ones to pick up the pieces.

Then there are the tornadoes. They spring up, seemingly out of nowhere. Leaving total destruction in their wake. No amount of planning, preparing or even hiding change their impact.

After a destructive storm there is darkness. The power, either literally or emotionally, is out. Even the most familiar places are dark and difficult to navigate. There is debris in every single corner of our lives. We begin picking up the pieces, slowly bagging them up and putting things back together. Friends and family often come and help. They bring all their tools, they give their time and love to help pick up the pieces.Things clean up fairly easily, the small details, tree limbs, shingles, bricks, often, however, the landscape is forever changed. It takes a while for the darkness to leave, for the light to return. For some sense of “normal” to be felt.

The storms of nature, much like the storms of our lives, have a purpose. The great winds and rains are God’s way to prune the decayed wood and weak limbs from the trees. These limbs are pruned away, allowing new, healthy limbs to grown in their place. This allows the trees to be fruitful again. The ones that survive tend to grow back bigger, stronger and more abundant than before. The rains allow for growth as well, they saturate the soil to make it fertile again.

The same goes for the storms of life. Every storm we encounter is God’s way of pruning away something in our hearts and lives that shouldn’t be there.  Something that is dead and decaying, keeping us from producing the fruits we should be producing. They’re designed to drive us deep into the heart of Jesus. The winds remove the parts of us that are weak and when the rain that falls, it helps us grow.  Saturating the soil of our hearts allowing them to be fertile for what Jesus has for us. When the sun returns, and it always does, it allows us to grow a stronger, deeper relationship with Christ.

The number of storms you experience sometimes has a lot to do with where you’re living. Are you living in a place that’s far from God? Navigating your life on your own, living in the flesh as it’s called. When you are living outside of the will of God, you will have more storms. That’s God’s way of giving you a reason to find him again. When you have nothing left to do but cry out of Jesus that’s exactly what you’ll do. Those who do their best to live in the will of God will also endure the storms of this life. Christianity does not spare us from God’s pruning. We as Christians are never done. We never become so “christian” that God doesn’t need to prune us, but I can tell you that enduring a storm by clinging to Jesus is much more comforting than enduring it with nothing at all to hold on to.

Jesus is the calmer of our storms. This doesn’t mean he stops them all together, but He brings us peace in the midst of the rain. We only need faith in Him to have His peace.

Mark 4:35-41 tells us a story about Jesus and his disciples in a major storm… I always imagine it being a big cat 5 hurricane myself…

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Even the wind and the waves obey Him. That means that He allows the winds and rain to come into our lives, just as He tells them to be still when they’ve served their purpose. Nothing we endure comes as a surprise to Jesus. Each and every storm has a specific purpose. And He will always calm them when He’s ready.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs. The one on repeat in my earbuds during any storm we face.

<3 Nicki

 

 

 

12 Aug

Plan B

We are headed into year 4 of our homeschool adventure and somehow everything seems different now. Last year was a blur. We had an extra child with us most days, a neighbor who was also homeschooled. He was the same age as our boys so he enjoyed spending time with our gang. He was a good kid and we enjoyed him, but it was stressful at times. Half way through the year we learned that we were expecting Everly, so we began anticipating starting this year with a newborn in tow. I chose our curriculum and set our schedule based around that notion. I even registered Olivia in our church’s VPK program, knowing that the three hours a morning would be a huge blessing with a sleepless newborn.

Then June happened and of course everything changed. That month was such a blur. We started out with All-Stars for the boys… practices and endless hours in the scorching sun watching them play. The team came in second in the district, not too shabby. 10 days later Everly was born. Then she was gone and all of a sudden it’s August. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to the distraction that school will bring. Lesson plans, field trips and busyness. This has always been my favorite time of year, the freshness of the school year, the way it leads right into the holiday season. It’s bittersweet this time around, we’re missing part of the plan. Everly’s Thanksgiving outfit is tucked away in a box in my closet. The swing set we are buying Olivia for Christmas was meant for both of our girls. Life is moving on, but it’s very different than we planned for it to be.

While I am excited to start our year together, I am sad. I miss the plans we had. Olivia will love her VPK class, and that time every day will give me one on one time with the boys. It’ll allow us to get a lot done without the distraction of a 4-year-old… I’m grateful for my children who are here, but I wish our family was complete. I long for a needy newborn, dirty diapers and sleepless nights. Part of us is missing.

On to Plan B.

Nicki

 

17 Jul

For Everly Joy

On Wednesday,  June 21st, 2017 our daughter, Everly Joy, was born at just 26 weeks and 1 day. She went home to be with Jesus on Friday, June 23rd. The circumstances of her death are unimportant to her story. Her death is not how we want our Everly remembered.

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  

We want you to know how God used her brief life. We want her remembered for God’s goodness and His purpose for her.

 

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  

Within minutes of her birth, Everly was taken to the NICU to be stabilized. My husband stepped out to get updates from the doctor and I found myself alone in a recovery room, in shock and terrified. I couldn’t feel God at that moment. In fact, I honestly don’t even think I was capable of praying in those first few minutes. But soon, I was surrounded by five of the most precious people in our lives. In those first few moments, God showed up. You see, most of the people who came into that recovery room shouldn’t have been there. Two of my closest friends were supposed to have left for a missions trip to Costa Rica two days before, and were at first disappointed when they weren’t able to go. Our pastor and his family grew tired of being away on vacation and came back early, the day before Everly was born. My mother was actually supposed to leave for Georgia with her sister the same day our pastor returned, but had to cancel her trip because her sister became ill.

God moved.  He suddenly cleared their schedules and lead them all to that room to comfort me. They, and more family and friends, kept a vigil over us. They prayed over our Everly, they cried with us, they filled the physical needs that we didn’t even know we had.

 

Those sweet friends and family members held us up for the 37 hours and 27 minutes that we had Everly on this earth. Our pastor came in the middle of the night to be with us as our girl went home. He stayed with us as we said our good-byes to Everly. He and his wife, another special friend, made the long drive back later that afternoon so that we wouldn’t be alone that day.

After she was gone, The Holy Spirit continued to move people around us. One of my friends knew we needed to be alone in those moments but couldn’t sit home. So she drove more than an hour in the wee hours of the morning to our hospital. She parked outside and prayed for hours with another close friend over the phone. She knew that our world was crashing down around us and she wanted to be as close as she could while she prayed.

 II Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

The day Everly left, God sent a nurse to my room. I had seen her that morning, soon after they took my baby girl away, and had been angry with God for putting me in her care. She was a beautiful and very pregnant young woman. It hurt me to see her. But that afternoon, as we sat in the empty hospital room contemplating how hard it would be to sit there all night, with no baby to visit, she came into our room and asked about our daughter. She sat and listened to our story and then she told us hers. She had given birth to a daughter in that same hospital a few years before, and much like Everly, her daughter never came home. It then became clear that God sent her because she was the only person in that place who truly knew what we were going through at that very moment. And she was willing. She had walked through this incredible pain and had drawn closer to God so that she could share her compassion and love with me, and others like me.

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The next step in this journey was to arrange for a funeral that we are unprepared for, both financially and emotionally. Yet God continued to move. He mobilized a church and a community, who collected financial support for our expenses…not to mention the countless meals and gift cards for food and groceries that people sent. When you are walking through deep waters, its hard to see God’s hands. But He is always there. He shows Himself in the people around you.

Choosing a cemetery for our daughter’s resting place was agony. We went from choosing cribs and baby clothes to caskets and headstones in the blink of an eye. The funeral director recommended a little cemetery close to our home. We went into the tiny little country cemetery and found a small bench in the center, under an old oak tree. We sat there and took it all in and we wept. As we sat , holding each other, we began to notice the sounds around us. Lawn mowers, birds, children playing, all sounds we hear in our very own back yard. Family sounds. The little place felt like home. We knew immediately that it was where she should be. A few days later, we met the gentlemen who run the cemetery to chose her resting place. We wanted to place her under the oak tree, right in front of the bench where we found some peace. The men came out with the tape measures and they carefully plotted her spot. Out of 20 rows, with 75 graves each, the little spot in front of the bench ended being in row 9, grave 26 on the cemetery map. The reason that’s significant? Her due date was September 26th. Now that might not seem important to you, but for me, that was God giving me peace. That was Him telling me that yes, this was where she was supposed to be.

 

We laid Everly to rest on Friday, June 30th. It was a beautiful ceremony, filled with flowers, cards, tears and worship.

Job 1:20-21

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Acts 16:25-26

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 

We have been very purposeful in how we respond to this tragedy. We want to honor God in everything that we do. The Bible gives us some pretty strong examples of how we should respond during times of suffering. The ones we have been studying have been Job and Paul.

Job lost everything, absolutely every single thing he had. How did he respond? He worshiped.

Paul was imprisoned, beaten and tortured for his love for Christ. Did he lay down in his cell, depressed and broken? No, he praised God and worshiped Him while imprisoned.

 

I Thessalonians 5:18

18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

In the first couple of days I found myself wondering where God was. I prayed and asked Him just that. At that moment, he flooded my mind with all the people He had sent to us. All the people who had surrounded us with love, food, cards, financial support, prayers and so much more. I found something very special to be grateful for in this situation, those friends and family. Each and every one of them.

 

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

As Christians, we tend to expect to be somewhat protected through life. We seem to live in a bubble, bad things happen to other people, not us. It’s a naivety  that we have. We’re good people, we do the right thing, surely God will always bless and protect us from the bad things of life.

Until He doesn’t.

That’s when life gets real. How do we respond when we are held to the fire? We have two choices; we can walk away from God, be angry, bitter, and depressed, or we can draw closer to God, worshiping Him in the midst of the sorrow, which leads us to joy and gives us hope. His plan is greater than our plan. His ways are higher than ours. I will never understand how Everly’s death fits into His plan for our life, but I trust Him. I know that He loves me. I know that He gives me hope for my future.

Romans 15:13

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

So let’s talk about what I believe Everly’s purpose is.

I’ve learned that joy is a choice that doesn’t always come naturally for me anymore. It used to, but now joy is evasive. I have never experienced pain like what fell over us the moment Everly left us. Yes, we have three beautiful children. Yes, I realize how blessed I am. But knowing I am blessed and being able to feel joyful are two different things. I’m learning that joy is a choice I have to make every single day. Every single day I wake up realizing that it’s not a dream. One of our daughters is buried a mile from our home. She’s not coming back. As a mother, having a child you cannot mother is unbearable. My husband has found ways to honor Everly through his service. He and our boys are able to volunteer at the cemetery, mowing and cleaning and that helps them. He has a way to be her daddy, even if it’s not the traditional way we expected. I’ve been searching for my way. As a parent, we do the things for our kids that they can’t do for themselves. Most of the time that includes feeding or changing them. Holding them when they cannot walk. Everly can’t make her mark on this big world now, so I have to do that for her. That is my need to mother her and care for her, even though she is no longer with us.

I am in charge of her purpose now and I believe her purpose is Joy.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

 

When God lead me to begin this blog, a little more than two years ago, He gave me the name Consider it all Joy. He gave me the need to say these words to my children and my husband every day, “You bring me joy” has become a motto for the Herrells. He was showing me, preparing me so to speak, for these dark days. He was giving me a glimpse of this child’s purpose before I even had a glimpse of Everly. Nothing God does is by accident. It’s all part of His perfect plan. You see, it’s easy to have joy when everything is going well in your life. Happiness comes easily. We may even find ourselves complacent with our happy little lives. When you are walking through deep waters, in dark storms, joy isn’t even on the horizon. It’s not visible. However, God always provides the blessing of joy. But you have to choose it every day. Some days are easier than others for me. It was no coincidence that our baby girl was named Everly Joy. Ever Joy. Every Day. Help me make her mark on this world. I implore you to get up every day and purposefully look for joy. In every single moment, in every situation, find it. Choose it. Embrace it. “Consider it.” Joy is for sunny days and dark clouds. It’s for firm ground and deep waters.

I will do my very best to do the same.

#ForEverlyJoy

 

 

08 Jun

A Joyful Update

 

As many of you have noticed (and messaged!) I’ve not written in several months. There a few reasons I’ve been absent. First, and foremost, I’ve been consumed with everyday life and haven’t had time to shower, no less write. Secondly, my domain hosting company let my domain name lapse and it took 80 days to get it corrected! But that’s a minor hiccup compared to the rest of our school year. I’d love to share an update with you today.

If you read my last post, Joy Delayed, you know that at the end of January, days after our youngest turned 4, we got some shocking news and learned we’d be adding to our little family. That shock has taken months to soften, I still have days that I feel her wiggle in my body, and am surprised that we are having another baby. I’m not sure it’ll feel real until she’s actually here.

So let’s go back to March, about a month after my last post. We opted to do some genetic testing so that we could be prepared for whatever God had planned for this little one. My age, of course, being a factor, I am higher risk for some genetic abnormalities. We were relieved to learn that our little bird was negative for all they tested for. We were thrilled to learn that we were having another little girl as well. Well, everyone but Collin, but he came around.

We started collecting girlie things. I’m a cloth diaper momma so I was able to start adding pinks and purples and flowers to our cloth stash and that made me happy. Some sweet friends started buying pretty little pink things to fill her drawers and closet with… everything was coming together. We were accepting the fact that our family was expanding and that another sweet little girl would be in our near future.

Then the 20 week sonogram came. I know most of you are assuming we saw boy parts, but no, she’s still very much a little girl. What we did see were 2 little cysts in her brain. I half-way expected it, as Olivia had one around the same time. It dissipated by the third trimester scan and wasn’t in a part of the brain that would harm her in any way.   Still, I shed a few quiet tears as the tech (a friend who had done the anatomy scans of all of my babies) finished the scan. One of the things I knew to watch for was for her hands to be open. I saw her point her finger once, but most of the scan, her hands remained in clinched fists. Babies with trisomy disorders are unable to open their hands. I was worried but tired to be as calm as I could.

Afterwards, she told me she was moving me from the PA’s schedule to the Doctor’s schedule that day. That both comforted and scared me. I was thankful to talk to the doctor who had delivered all three of my others, I trust him. I was also nervous as to why it was important for us to talk to him, rather than his assistant.

We went in the room and we waited.

After a bit, my doctor came in. He told us that he wasn’t concerned about the cysts at all. They seemed to be something that happens with John and I make a girl. They are transient in the second trimester and harmless in most cases. They are, however, a soft marker for all of those genetic abnormalities we had already been tested for.

The second thing he told us about was that there was a problem with her umbilical cord. She, or I, I’m actually not sure which of us has the issue… but the umbilical cord is missing an artery. It’s a condition called Single Artery Umbilical cord and in most cases, it’s harmless. However, it too is a soft marker for those genetic abnormalities.

We asked a few questions, but not really everything we should have, and my doctor explained that starting at 34 weeks, the baby would undergo non stress tests each week. I’ll sit with a monitor on for 20 minutes and it’ll measure her heart rate. When she moves or I contract, they expect her heart to behave a certain way. If in the 20 minutes, her heart responds properly two times, she passes. If it does not, she fails and I’ll be induced. He also wanted us to see the Maternal Fetal Specialist to rule out any of the Trisomy disorders. Although we have already tested negative for all of the Trisomy disorders, it’s unnerving to have to be rechecked as those early screenings are not 100% accurate all the time.

I called MFM that day and they graciously gave me an appointment for the very next morning. I imagine they see lots of worried mommas and are just the best kind of doctors because they understand that in most cases, waiting is not an option. We went in the next morning for a high resolution anatomy scan. We were checking a couple of things closer. The umbilical cord develops at the same time as the baby’s heart and kidneys, so when there is a defect in one, they have to look closely at the others as well.

I prayed. Over and over again. Open hands, perfect heart, healthy baby. It became almost like a little chant I was saying in my head while we waited in the office, over and over and over.

Open hands. Perfect heart. Healthy baby.

Please, God.

The nurse called me back and my nerves were shaky. The moment she started the scan, this was what we saw.

That’s a little hand, fully open.

I cried. I explained why I was crying. She already knew.

So the scan continued with some much needed relief for me. Her heart is structurally perfect. Her kidneys are beautiful and functioning exactly as they should. The cysts were still there, but were not a concern. After the scan, the doctor came in and explained in very clinical terms what our odds were. Our little girl has a 1-400, or a 0.25% chance of having a genetic disorder.  That means there is a 99.75% chance that she’s just fine. She gave me numbers and statistics that I honestly couldn’t follow. After her explanation we asked, do you think she’s ok? Her reply was perfect.

“I think you have a perfectly healthy baby girl who just happens to be a drama queen”

We smiled, we prayed and thanked God.

There are still a few hurdles to cross. We have a fetal echocardiogram scheduled for next week to be sure that her heart is functioning properly. She will also need a growth study around 32 weeks to ensure she’s growing properly.  I don’t want her to come too soon and have to spend time in the NICU as our hospital doesn’t have one and she would need to be transferred. The concern with SUA at this point, is low birth weight. With our history of 10+ pound babies, I don’t anticipate birth weight being an issue. I am hoping to get to 36-37 weeks to have the best chance of her staying with me in the hospital and going home with us in 48 hours. If you’re a praying momma, I’d ask you to pray the same.

So now that the medical drama is explained, let’s talk about her name, shall we?

We wanted something unique but if you were around for naming Olivia, you know that we have a difficult time with girl names. We are just on the opposite end of the spectrum as far as our taste goes. We poured over every single name that has ever been given to a baby girl and only one or two stood out to us. The first one we axed because it was more of a gender neutral name. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but Olivia has a very, very feminine name and we wanted this little girl to have something similar in style.

We settled on Everly. It’s not classic name, but it does have a classic, almost Victorian feel to it to me. I love that it follows the same pattern as Olivia, beginning with a vowel and having the “v” sound in the middle.

Her middle name is where our family motto came into play. For years, we have told the kids “you bring me joy” every single day. And they say it to us. We wanted them to always know, good days and bad, they are the joy of our life. The motto is on our school room wall, so that they are reminded every single day. I had a hard time with finding joy in this pregnancy. A very, very hard time. So we chose Joy to be her middle name. A reminder for all of us, that God gives us our joy. It’s not always what we plan or expect.

Everly Joy Herrell will be joining our family, sometime between the end of August and the end of September. We pray that she is healthy and perfect in every way.

So that’s our update. That’s a bit of what the past 6 months has been for us. Thanks for reading <3

 

With Love,

Nicki

 

 

04 Feb

Joy Delayed

joy delayed

 

We were done. Finished. The oven was closed. We had exactly the life I wanted. My three amazing kids were home with me. The boys are older and homeschooling well. They’re pretty independent and Liv!  Liv is out of the baby stage. No diapers, she’s unbelievably independent. My cake business is growing, I’m loving it. Life was good. Life was full. Life was complete. My family was complete.

Then God moved.

I won’t go into great detail, but I will say that we were preventing pregnancy medically. This had been working beautifully for 4 years. No scares, no issues, just beautiful, non-pregnant life. Until it didn’t work. I was a week late (sorry for the TMI) but I was sure it was just my age and stress level so I took a pregnancy test, knowing it would be negative.

It wasn’t.

The first test came back positive so quickly that I was quite sure it was faulty. That second test though, had me in tears. There was no joy in it for me. I was overwhelmed. I told my husband, who was shocked yet joyful. I couldn’t find the joy.

test

 

We told the kids, they were over the moon with happiness! Excitement and anticipation flowed freely from them. I was joyless.

We told our family. They were thrilled, albeit shocked, they were happy for us. Still, I was joyless.

We told the world (Thanks Brenda Anderson Photography and Facebook!) we received countless congratulations and loving words. It was beautiful and wonderful and all those things, yet I was still joyless.

annouce

I bought a couple cloth diapers and we tossed around baby names. Trying to be excited. Trying to allow myself to be happy about this pregnancy. I felt the need to explain over and over that “this baby wasn’t planned” “we were done” “I shouldn’t be pregnant!” It’s like I needed everyone to know that this pregnancy was a mistake.

And then I realized, right before I began writing this, that this pregnancy isn’t a mistake, this BABY is a blessing. All of my babies brought me joy, I loved all of my pregnancies. I was excited and thrilled and joyful but for some reason, this pregnancy felt like I had done something wrong. Maybe it’s a need to explain why on earth anyone would have four children on purpose? I certainly didn’t plan on it, but God has better plans than ours. He is God, I am not. He wanted me to have this baby so badly that he let every single thing we were doing to prevent it fail. He has a plan for this little bird, and that plan deserves my joy. This is going to be another little soul that I’ll get to nurse in the middle of the night. That I’ll get to rock to sleep and that I’ll get to raise to love the merciful God who gave this baby to me.

So I’m done explaining our accident. I’m done telling about our mistake. I’ll tell you that I’m pregnant with a beautiful baby that I cannot wait to hold. I’m forgiving myself this week of shock and grief and I’m embracing my crazy, unscripted life.

I’ve started a little box in my closet with all the beautiful things I gather for this baby, I’m going to love filling it up!

new baby

We can’t wait to meet you little bird.

Love, Mommy.

 

 

16 Jan

Raising Men

men

Up until 4 years ago I was strictly a boy mom. Even though God blessed us with a spunky, blonde, cherry-on-top girl, I am still very much a boy mom. I always felt pretty confident in my boy mom skills. I knew how to discipline them as well as their daddy does. I am accustomed to their wild boy antics. The smell of dirty boy doesn’t even bother me any more. I was raising boys and doing it pretty well if I do say so myself.
And then I realized that my job wasn’t to raise boys.
I’m here to raise men.

I’m not doing as well as I thought I was when I look at my boys through the lens of manhood. My oldest son is eleven and he’s got a case of the lazies. He’s smart, beautiful, loving, Godly and fabulous. But the boy hates to work. H.A.T.E.S. it. He has chores but does them begrudgingly and half way. Every single time he takes the trash out (which is every day) I have to remind him to put a new bag in the can. I often don’t realize it needs a new bag until I have my hands full of dripping, gooey mess that needs to be tossed… it’s frustrating.

This past weekend my eyes were opened and I saw how we had failed our boys. My husband took the day off of work Friday and took our boys to a celebrity golf tournament. It was free for them but it was a very long drive, lots of walking and a ton of planning on my husband’s part. The boys had an amazing day! They came home begging to go back the following day as well. We said no. There was yard work that needed to be done. Quite a lot of it.

Saturday morning came. It’s a balmy 70 degrees here on a January morning in Florida. Perfect yard work weather. I loaded up Liv and we headed to the grocery store as the boys were starting their work with their dad.

John and Collin were working hard, pulling weeds, trimming bushes and mowing the grass. But Kaden was not. Kaden was moping and sloth-like. He was too hot, too tired, too bored.

Kaden has always had what my mother calls “the quitsies.” He has always had someone to do everything for him. I guess it’s first child syndrome, but this boy is helpless. We’ve made light of it for years.

“that boy has a lot of quit in him.” “I’m praying for his future wife because she’s going to be busy.” “He’s going to need to marry Mary Poppins.”

It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It made being lazy “acceptable” in his mind.

My husband had a come to Jesus meeting with him that day. Work ethic isn’t optional. It’s what separates men from boys. He made it quite clear that we were raising MEN.

Let me share with you where we went wrong and what we’re changing to help our son… notice I didn’t say “fix” him, he’s not broken. Just mislead… by the two people who love him more than all others.

We failed our boys by always doing things for them. 

I think it’s somewhat natural to fall into this trap. When our boys make their beds I tend to go behind them and straighten them. Bring them up to my standards. I did that so often that they stopped trying. Sloppy covers, pillows missing pillow cases were the norm. They knew mom would take care of it. Same goes with laundry. I always did the wash, if they put their clothes away they get stuffed in a drawer or thrown in the bottom of the closet. Rather than making them do things properly, I just did it for them so that I didn’t have to iron.

I still put peanut butter and jelly on their waffles for them. *blush* They’re 11 and 9. They’re capable. Yet when they wine, or say that I do it better, I fall for it. Sometimes they will bring me a package of snacks to open for them… because they can’t? Really? Yet I would open them. Ridiculous right?

We failed our boys by not implementing chores early enough and being consistent. 

We never gave the boys chores when they were little. I felt like it was my job to do the housework. They were just little boys right? Guess what happens when you clean up tooth  paste every single day for a 5 year old? You’ll find yourself doing it for a 10 year old one day too. My boys have never used a vacuum cleaner. Never. When they do work in the house they do it half way. Sweeping the front porch is a common chore, yet they never actually do it right. Moving the welcome mat never crosses their mind. I have to remind them daily to clear their own dishes after meals! It’s like they feel as though I am their personal assistant.

We failed our boys by not making them earn the things they wanted.

We’re like many parents out there and we love to bless our kids. Their grandparents do as well. I remember a few years back my parents bought them both Ipads for Christmas. We were just starting our homeschool journey and my parents thought they’d be useful. The boys loved them, but didn’t appreciate and care for them properly. A few weeks later I noticed that the screens were dirty and cracked. I had the screens replaced and within weeks they were cracked again. I’m sad to say that this went on for months before I stopped paying to have them replaced. My boys didn’t care enough to take care of them. They expected me to pay to fix them over and over again. This is a common theme in this house. The “I broke it so I need a new one” attitude is strong in these two.

We failed our boys by paying them for the chores they did

Don’t get me wrong, allowance is great. So is learning the value of a dollar. However, not all chores need to be paid. I would ask my boys to take out the trash and they’d reply with “how much money will you give me?” Wait, what?? My boys were deciding if they were going to obey me depending on how much money they would make? Um… let’s give that a big fat No.

So clearly changes were needed. Here’s how we’re shaking things up.

First let me say, my boys are great kids. They’re loving, smart, Godly young men. They’ve been spoiled and lead to believe they exist to play. But we’ve got time to turn them into the men they are called to be.

We are working to foster independence and work ethic

We actually implemented a rule that if you are unable to prepare the food or open the package, you can’t eat it. That means if they bring me a cinnamon bun and ask me to open the wrapper they will go hungry. Guess what, they can be dang resourceful when they need to be.

I stopped doing their laundry. Even if I wash clothes, their clothes go in their own basket to be folded and put away. If they shove them in a drawer or the bottom of the closet they will wear them wrinkled, or figure out how to work the wrinkle release cycle on the dryer themselves. I am the iron queen no more. I don’t straighten their bed sheets, I don’t pick up their rooms. If their friends come over and think they’re slobs it’s on them, not me. It’s amazing what a disgusted friend can do for the work ethic of a little boy young man.

We’ve implemented daily chores

If you read my post about spiral notebooks (here) you’ll know that I’ve started putting their daily chores in their agenda for the day. The only reward they get for these chores is a painted quarter for a small amount of candy at the end of the day. They have to do their chores as though Jesus Himself were going to inspect them. If they don’t follow through from start to finish they lose their electronics for the day and they don’t get their reward.

We don’t buy them anything they want

The only exception is Christmas and their birthdays. We provide food and necessary clothing, period. If they have an item they want they are responsible with earning and saving enough money to purchase it. This also makes them a ton more careful with their things. Had they purchased those Ipads with their own money I bet the screens would be in their perfect, original state. A child who earns money, purchases and item and then has to earn money to replace it will only have to learn that lesson once.

We aren’t paying them for all their chores

The rule we are using is that if they do a job that we would have to pay someone else to do, for instance mowing the grass or large amounts of yard work, then we will pay them for the amount of work they do. However, anything they contribute to on a daily basis… toilets, dishes, trash, laundry, is free labor. They contribute to those messes as much as we do. Those are things they will have to do for the rest of their lives. I don’t want them to think that their wives (God bless their souls) will just take care of it. I have a husband who washes dishes, helps with laundry and vacuums every week. He’s got an incredible work ethic and takes pride in serving me. I want my boys to do the same for their wives some day.

Momma’s, it’s so easy to fall into these traps, but we are not raising boys. Raising boys is why our society is the way that it is today. We have a world full of men who would rather play video games or play outside than work hard providing for their families. Those aren’t men. I’m setting the stakes higher for my boys. I want them to be Godly, hard working men one day. Men who will bless their wives and raise their children with a strong work ethic as well. We need more strong men. It’s up to us to raise them up.

 

 

 

 

01 Jan

Resolutions

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Here we are at the beginning of a brand new year. A blank page in an empty book. I normally do some resolutions but they aren’t attainable.

They tend to go something like this:

1. Loose 30 pounds by February!

2…..

yea, that’s pretty much it.

I’m here on January 1st, still needing to lose a good 30 pounds but I’m closing in on 40 years old and my metabolism is dead. I spend so much energy hating my body and wishing I was still in my 20 something body that it consumes me. So this year my resolutions are a little different…

1. I resolve to love this body, no matter what it’s particular relationship with gravity is.

2. I’m going to care for it. It needs to run 3 days per week, I will give it the opportunity.

3. It needs healthy fuel, not diets. Instead of thinking “that’s not on my diet” I will say “that’s not good for my body” diets fail, healthy lifestyles thrive.

4. I will allow my body to have birthday cake when it makes it another year, I will eat frozen yogurt with my kids,  and I won’t feel guilty.

5. I will strive to see me the way those who love me do. Rather than saying “my hips are wide or my belly isn’t flat” I’ll say “my body is strong and that mommy tummy gave me 3 beautiful babies”

6. When I feel empty I will fill myself with God rather than junk food.

That’s it, that’s what I want for this year. This post is short and sweet, and it’s more for me than you. I needed to write it down, I needed accountability.

I pray that if any of you are battling body image woes that you’ll do the same things I am doing. Not because I’m an expert, clearly I am not, but if my struggles can help you too then they are worth it.

 

So here I am, 1/1/17… about 30 pounds over my healthy weight. I’m going to try to lose, but embrace who I am either way.

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Happy New Year Friends <3

30 Dec

Second Semester Simplify!

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Ok homeschool moms, half the year is gone! We’re on the home stretch… it’s time to reevaluate and decide what needs to stay and what needs to go… Less is more. We know this, we’ve heard it forever. So why do we, as homeschool moms, feel the need to pile more and more into our schedules each day?

It’s simple. It’s comparison. It’s a trap, and it’s exhausting.

I’ve done it, I’ve piled more and more in some attempt to make sure my kids aren’t missing anything that they would get at “real school.” Guess what? They’re missing a lot. They’re missing bullies, secular education, worldly friends, and they’re missing their own comparison traps.

So let’s talk about Less is More and how we can put it into play in our crazy homeschool lives…

Let’s start with the MORE philosophy…

We’ve been doing it since the moment we found out we were pregnant. We compare the way we dress and need cuter maternity clothes. We compare the weight we gain and feel ugly. We compare the cool baby gear we see and we buy a ton of stuff we don’t need.

The comparison trap goes on forever, shoes, clothes, houses, nurseries… do you cloth diaper or use sposies? Homemade baby food or store bought? Breast or bottle?

And now we are here… homeschooling our kids and I don’t know about you, but I am constantly comparing my kids and my schedule to those “thriving” families I see around me. One good friend’s son actually wrote a book before he was 10 years old!! Ok, well, in her defense she truly is amazing and her son is brilliant but I have to know that my baseball obsessed boys aren’t going to write a paragraph without spewing contempt, there are no books in their future. I see lots of families who seem to be all sitting around, knitting, speaking latin, listening to mozart and reading every classic novel known to man. My kids are drawing pokemon figures when we do our read alouds, arguing over spelling words and begging for ten more minutes of recess. I thought I had added all the right programs, techniques, Pinterest worthy homeschool everything. However, I found myself spending much of my time making sure I was doing the latest and greatest for my kids but I wasn’t spending that time with my kids.

 

Now for LESS…

I’m simplifying this January. The first thing I’m doing away with is tedious lesson plans. I came across a post a few weeks back about simplifying homeschool with spiral notebooks. 10 cent notebooks! And guess what guys? It’s genius!

(link to original poster HERE)

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Every night I write their assignments in their notebook but I wanted to take it a step past just school. I’m also including their Bible reading and chores for the day. You see, if you spend all your time focusing on the academics of homschooling you’ll miss out on the character building, Christ-centering, Child-of-God making elements.

I found a really cool way to get the boys not only memorizing their verses, but understanding them as well. (the image below is the property of www.yourvibrantfamily.com)

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(original post HERE)

In their notebook I write a verse for them to look up. They read the verse, copy it in their notebook , restate it in their own words… When they are done with their assignments for the day I can go back to that verse and make sure they understand what it means. It opens a dialogue about Christ and it’s leading to some very cool conversations.

I’m also including their daily chores in their spiral notebook. At the end of the day, when everything is checked off and I make sure they are done to the Lord’s standards, they earn a little painted black quarter that they can use to redeem candy from our school room bubble gum machine. (it only took 18 months to get that in play! my original post here. Our School Room)

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(this thing costs a FORTUNE to fill!! That’s two bags of M&M’s and two bags of Skittles!)

When I focus more on our basic day, rather than trying to make them Ivy league scholars, my kids get to be kids and less really is more.

So let’s change a bit, let’s simplify things. Let’s spend more time with our children playing Uno and Candy Land rather than filling their schedules with Latin and Theremin lessons. Let them be kids, let yourself be imperfect. Take a breath momma, as long as they have time with you they aren’t missing a thing!

 

 

 

 

19 Dec

When our blessings distract us from our purpose

 

blessingsThis time of year our home is filled with the sounds of Christmas. Mainly in the form of music and movies. I love the classic movies. Frosty is a favorite. Every time my kids watch it (which seems to be every.single.day.) I hear the little magician cry out “Busy, Busy Busy!” and I laugh…

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“Me too, Santa, me too”

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t blogged since August. I got busy. Too busy.

In the past few months I’ve started a cake business, actually, I’ve just rekindled a passion. My business is thriving and God is blessing it! I love decorating cakes, I love baking, I actually just love all things cake 🙂

It started out as me doing a cake or two per month, and it’s turned into several a week along with cupcakes and the like. I’m excited to see what God can do with this little business of mine but I also am painfully aware of what the devil can do.

We all know that God uses all things for good.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

But Satan will use good things too if we are not careful. He is a master of distraction and he uses it to take our focus away from our true purpose.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversarythe devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 1 Peter 5:8

Cakes are my business, they are my hobby, they are my extra income, but they are not my purpose.

My children are my purpose. Growing them, educating them, validating them, working diligently to turn them into God fearing adults who walk side by side with Christ on a daily basis. That’s my purpose.

Lately, however, I find myself sitting on the couch during nap time looking at cake pictures, inspiration so to speak. I’m checking messages, practicing new techniques… it’s all good as long as I don’t allow it to consume all of me. Sometimes I do though. Sometimes I check out mentally and immerse myself in Pinterest while my kids play video games after school. That’s when this business of mine becomes a distraction from my real purpose. That’s where I need discipline to keep everything balanced. I need to prioritize my time properly, so that my purpose comes before my hobbies.

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

It’s easy to immerse ourselves in time squandering but it isn’t wise. Some days I don’t even pick up my bible, yet I have time to peruse Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I’m forsaking the most important work I have, for the distractions of life.

So what to do? How do you balance the good things that God has given you with, the talents He has provided you with, with the purpose He has given you? I’m still learning myself but I’m finding that prayer is the biggest component.

If I wake up in the morning and immediately open my bible and pray for my day, things go according to plan (most of the time) my priorities stay in check, my distractions are less of a distraction.

However, if the first thing I touch in the morning is my phone, I may not even open my bible. That blows my entire day. Every single time.

There is no magic trick, no “do this and you’ll never be distracted again!” I just have to make prayer and God my priority, He will then make me focus on my purpose. The rest can wait.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

23 Aug

When You’re a Homeschool Mom

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Everyone has an opinion on homeschooling and they are usually very black or white. Some people are totally supportive and others think you’re ruining your children. Here are a few things I have found happen constantly for me personally…

When you’re a homeschool mom…

1. You are tagged on Facebook a lot. Every. Single. Day. Anytime a new homeschool funny comes out it’s private messaged to me or posted to my timeline numerous times. I don’t mind, it makes me realize that my loved ones know that this is a big part of my identity and I’m glad they think of me when they think of homeschool. Keep them coming girls… and the Ryan Gossling ones are my favorite!

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2. People are curious. Every time we go out during “school hours” we always get comments and questions. “No school today?” “Are they sick?” “I didn’t realize today was a holiday…” I always smile and politely tell them that we are a homeschool family. That statement is met with a couple of responses. We’re either praised for the effort or my kids are quizzed to make sure they can count their toes. “What part of school is Chick Fil A??” ummm… it’s lunch??

3. You constantly compare yourself to “perfect” homeschool moms. We’ve all seen them. That beautiful mom who’s perfectly put together everywhere she goes. Her kids (all 12 of them) are all clean and well behaved. The little ones all listen to Bach while the older ones build space shuttles in the immaculate school room. Each child is gifted, starting college in the 4th grade. I’ve learned something about super homeschool mom… she’s not real. Not at all. It’s all an illusion. God gave me these dirty, loud, rowdy children for a purpose. We don’t need perfection, it’s overrated.

4. You’ll change curriculum all the time. People will assume you’re a flake. Ignore them. It takes time to find the right groove for your family. The public school system has a very cookie cutter approach to learning, assuming all kids learn the exact same way. When you’re a homeschool mom you get to find what works best for your children, even if each one learns in a different way. You get to tailor make an education plan that’s just right for them.

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5. You’ll change your schedule constantly. This goes right back to #4. Finding your groove is important. When we first started I bought every subject in their assigned grades and nearly drowned in my schedule. Over the years I’ve learned to combine some subjects. We now do the same history and science so we can tackle it together rather than individually. It’s so nice to be able teach science one time to my kids and then actually be able to discuss what we learned as a group.

6. Laundry will be piled up all over your house. It’s inevitable. Don’t fight it, just roll with it… and push it off your bed so you can get at least a couple hours of sleep at night. It’s not that we’re lazy it’s just that our priorities are wrapped up in math lessons and the like. Laundry and dishes can wait, for a little while anyway. Chore lists help… sometimes…

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7. Electronics are your hero. Do you know what it takes to get a hot cup of coffee in the middle of the day for me? A Wii U, an Ipad and Youtube… that’s what it takes. I’m not a failure, I’m a human being who needs 5 minutes. Don’t judge the homeschool mom who’s kids watch kinder eggs… she’s surviving.

8. People will compliment your children and then immediately criticize you for your choices. I once took my boys to get their hair cut. The stylist went on and on about how confident they were. How they actually held conversations with her unlike many kids, who just sit there. She raved about how smart and polite they were. I thanked her and told her that they’re homeschooled. All of a sudden my children who she 3 seconds before had been amazing are “never going to get into college or be able to make friends” Lord help me. That conversation actually hurt my brain.

9. Family can make or break your homeschool. Support is necessary. Sometimes it’s an uplifting word from your husband. Sometimes it’s your mother coming by and taking the kids for a swim in the middle of the day so you can catch up on some housework (remember those laundry piles) Sometimes, if you’re really lucky and have an awesome mom like min, she’ll come over while you have the kids at Co Op and clean your entire house (Thanks again Mom!) Either way, you’ll need your village. If you don’t have family around find some great homeschool moms to surround yourself with. Yes, your non homeschool friends are still important, but having someone who’s living this life is priceless. We get each other. My homeschool friends are my people. Love you girls!

10. You’ll know it’s worth it. All the planning, reading, praying, worrying… all the piles of laundry and neglected chores… all the stress, all the library visits, all the insensitive strangers with more opinions than brains… it’s all worth it. Seeing your child thrive, getting to know them on a different level, watching them grow up before your eyes, seeing them all play together in the school room… even if it involves some fighting… It’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything on earth.

 

Love to you girls…

Nicki